The magic of the circus: Inclusive performance promotes the rights of people with disabilities in the West Bank

Last week ten young Palestinian performers, including five young people with learning disabilities, took to the stage to put on an outstanding show for an audience at the Palestine Circus School in Birzeit, in the occupied West Bank.

The group had been practicing together for months for a show combining traditional Palestinian “dabke” dancing and classic circus skills.  Their dedication shone through, delighting the audience with a performance set to classical music involving juggling, diablo tricks, human pyramids and other acrobatic feats under the cover of the school’s big top tent.

Medical Aid for Palestinians began partnering with the Palestinian Circus School last year. The school brings circus skills to more than 300 children and youths in the West Bank, including people with learning disabilities (referred to as intellectual disabilities outside the UK). MAP’s partnership with the Palestinian Circus School supports young people in Palestine, including those with disabilities, to promote the rights of people with disabilities to full inclusion and participation in society.

One of the performers was 18-year-old Reda, who attends weekly training sessions at the circus school. Speaking to MAP back in September, Reda described his favourite activities at the school and his ambition to perform in front of others: “My favourite part about the circus training is the acrobat moves and jumping on the trampoline. I think I am the best one at the acrobatic moves. I would love to perform in public but I am too shy to perform in front of girls. I love my trainer Naif, he is the best.”

Speaking to Xinhuanet News after the performance, Marah Natshe, a development researcher in Social Circus said, "The magic of the circus is to bring people from all around Palestine to meet in one place with no judgement from anyone. You can be just yourself and this is where the magic comes and it changes you and your perspective of life."

Three UK MPs, on a delegation in the West Bank with MAP and our partner Caabu, also attended the show. Attending the performance with the group was Roisin Jacklin, MAP’s Advocacy and Campaigns Officer, who said: “I was delighted to see the performance. The group created such an incredible energy of positivity and hope. The show is something I’d like everyone to see, the inclusive approach promoted by the circus school is important learning for us all.”

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